Share

Watchdog: Follow the Money

Treasury investigator led life of lies, government dependence

By |
Watchdog,Treasury,Inspectors General,Waste and Fraud,Luke Rosiak,Follow the Money

A high-ranking investigator in charge of rooting out fraud by Treasury Department employees was himself fraudulently drawing simultaneous salaries from both the military and the Treasury.

The same investigator then petitioned the government for a full disability retirement.

But wait, there's more!

He also pretended to be a peace officer and lied about it, all while racking up massive debts and filing for bankruptcy, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.

Richard Todd Ardis worked at the Department of the Treasury Office of the Inspector General starting in 2003, for most of that time at the rank of Assistant Special Agent in Charge.

He was also a reservist in the Marine Corps and was called to duty in 2006, taking leave without pay from Treasury to deploy to Iraq.

He was back stateside in less than a year, and "as a result of a fall that Ardis purportedly suffered in Iraq in or about January 2007, he would not be separated from the USMC, and would instead be placed in a 'medical hold' status so that he could receive treatment by the military for injuries that he claimed to have sustained, including a neck injury and a left knee injury," according to a criminal indictment.

"Medical hold" status meant that he would continue to draw the pay of a full-time member of the military, but that his full-time job was to go to doctors' appointments, and he was prohibited from working elsewhere. He was on medical hold from May through October 2007.

But one full federal salary wasn't enough for Ardis, according to the August 2009 indictment on federal charges of wire fraud, false statements and embezzlement of government property.

The indictment says that as soon as the military put him on injured status, he told Treasury he'd been cleared to resume his full-time work for the IG office, where he was supposed to root out wrongdoing and theft by others.

In October 2010, Ardis signed a statement acknowledging that he embezzled from the United States and agreed to one year of probation in exchange for prosecutors agreeing to defer prosecution, effectively letting him off with no criminal record if he stayed out of trouble.

The conditions of his probation specified that he could not apply for any more government jobs. He agreed to pay back nearly $36,000 to the Treasury.

The man living what turned out to be a lie had previously showed up on top officials’ radar for a stranger offense: Using his government car to make police-style traffic stops on the highway, which he had no right to do as an OIG employee.

According to an IG report obtained by the Examiner, shortly before he deployed to Iraq, Ardis repeatedly lied under oath about having made the stops.

He “was evasive and deceptive regarding the traffic stops he allegedly made. [He] explained that despite the fact that several individuals described [him,] his vehicle and had even written down his license plate number, [he] still denied most of the allegations that he had made the traffic stops.”

He denied that his car had police lights inside it, even though investigators had already found where it was parked and seen the lights inside.

As someone whose job was to mount cases against others, being a known liar could make it easy for people to mount legal challenges in cases in which he collected evidence and provided testimony.

In the IG report, in which many names are redacted, a top supervisor appeared to say that Ardis was in charge of rooting out employee misconduct at Treasury and that he was kept on the job because his employers feared litigation if they sent him anywhere else.

“[Redacted] said that he wanted to remove [redacted] from being the supervisor of the Employee Misconduct branch of OI but that” top managers thought the IG’s office “would be sued if they transferred [him] into another section within OI,” the report said, referring to the Office of Investigations.

A month and a half after the indictment, Treasury placed Ardis “on indefinite suspension pending the outcome of the criminal charges,” where he remained “until he resigned effective November 7, 2010,” records show.

But Ardis was not done. Soon after admitting to defrauding the Treasury, he asked the government to pay him money for decades in disability retirement benefits.

“On October 3, 2011, the appellant applied for disability retirement under FERS. He claimed that he became disabled in December 2009 due to” conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder and tension headaches, according to a filing with the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Ardis had been suspended beginning in September 2009, and had multiple court appearances in the months thereafter.

The government denied that request, and he appealed to the Office of Personnel Management, which denied him again, saying his conditions weren't "disabling prior to his resignation," and then appealed again to the MRPB, which denied his request in October 2013.

The MRPB noted that disability retirement is supposed to be available only if government has first tried to find a less-demanding job for the employee. It also said that "an appellant’s application for disability retirement in the face of an impending removal for misconduct is not a bar to the individual’s receipt of disability retirement benefits."

The MSPB found that his "neck, back and knee pain was not supported by sufficient medical evidence" — potentially calling into question his truthfulness with Marine Corps officials as well.

It notes that after he was indicted, the "Department of Veterans Affairs ... awarded the appellant service-connected disability benefits retroactive to August 2009 for various medical conditions, including PTSD."

In October 2009, he filed for bankruptcy and said he had no salary, but had an "anticipated income" of $3,750 a month from truck driving.

In March 2011, after a creditor said he hadn’t met the terms of the bankruptcy plan, proceedings reopened and he listed almost $800,000 in assets and nearly $1.1 million in liabilities, including two mortgages and unpaid taxes.

The documents show that his wife also drew a $930 a month government disability check, and that the couple had four vehicles.

He also said he had a business, Ardis Enterprises, and that ironically, a former employee embezzled $200,000 from him.

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Luke Rosiak

Senior Watchdog Reporter/Data Editor
The Washington Examiner